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INTRODUCTION By Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby

TYPOLOGICAL URBANISM AND THE IDEA OF THE CITY

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Yifan Liu, The Great Flight Forward, Chengdu, China, Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher Lee and Sam Jacoby), Architectural Association, London, 2008 Urban plan of airport. What defines China’s public image of monumentality and iconicity? The project subverts the idea of the People’s Square and turns its heroic figure into an airport.

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A warehouse can be turned into apartments, and a Georgian terrace into a school. What this means is that a functional reduction prevents other knowledge that can be obtained from type by considering it as belonging to a group of formal, historical and sociocultural aspects.

Bolam Lee, Multiplex City, Seoul, South Korea, Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher Lee and Sam Jacoby), Architectural Association, London, 2007 above: Model. The reconfigured high-rise is spliced with vertical public spaces and functions as an urban punctuator.

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opposite: Urban plan of Multiplex City. The project aims to exploit the defunct middle floors of multiplexes (multifunctional, hyperdense high-rises) in Seoul and converts them into vertical public spaces.


At the heart of this title of 2 is an attempt to outline a possible position and approach that enables the conjectural impulses of architectural production to recover its relevance to the city. Implicit to this is that the relationship between architecture and the city is reciprocal and that the city is the overt site for architectural knowledge par excellence. This proposition to re-empower the architect in the context of urban architectural production is founded on the realisation of three essential predicaments that need to be addressed by both the profession and academia. Firstly, the relentless speed and colossal scale of urbanisation, with the current level of around 50 per cent increasing to approximately 69 per cent by 2050, has resulted in the profession merely responding to these rapid changes and challenges in retrospect. Secondly, the form of urbanisation in emerging cities in the developing countries, and in particular in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, has departed from the Western models of centralised organisation and planning.1 The separation of architecture and urban planning into segregated domains – for efficiency and speed – has left each discipline impotent to deal with the ruptured, decentralised and fast-changing context, whether in Macau, Dubai or Shanghai. Finally, the architecture of this new urbanisation, fuelled by the market economy, is predominantly driven by the regime of difference in search of novelty. Macau built the world’s biggest casino and Dubai the tallest skyscraper, with its Burj Khalifa beating the recently completed Shanghai World Finance Center of 2008 to this superlative. With this increasing stultification, the discipline’s inability to confidently and comprehensively describe, conceptualise, theorise and ultimately project any new ideas of architecture in relationship to the city must be confronted and rethought. To achieve the stated meta-critical aim, this issue tries to dispel the common misunderstanding of the notion of type (and typology) and its common misuse as the ‘straw man’ in architectural experimentation and propositions. It outlines the terms on which the discussion of type and typology can

unfold today in a more precise and considered manner. It re-argues for the instrumentality of type and typology in the field of urbanism and the city, and features four projects that are conventionally not seen as fitting within the framework of typology, proposing that the reconsideration of these projects renews and enriches the understanding of working typologically. Similarly, recent projects by young practices further illustrate the possibility of utilising the notion of type in informing the ‘idea of the city’. Type and Typology In common usage the words ‘type’ and ‘typology’ have become interchangeable and understood as buildings grouped by their use: schools, hospitals, prisons, and so on.2 ‘Type’, however, should not be confused with ‘typology’. The suffix ‘-ology’ comes from the Greek logia, which means ‘a discourse, treatise, theory or science’. Thus typology is the discourse, theory, treatise (method) or science of type. Its reduction to categories of use is limiting, as buildings are independent from their function and evolve over time, as Aldo Rossi and Neo-Rationalism have already argued.3 A warehouse can be turned into apartments, and a Georgian terrace into a school. What this means is that a functional reduction prevents other knowledge that can be obtained from type by considering it as belonging to a group of formal, historical and sociocultural aspects. The essential quality of change and transformation rather than its strict classification or obedience to historical continuity endows type with the possibility to transgress its functional and formal limitations. For the definition of the word ‘type’ in architectural theory we can turn to Antoine-Chrysostome Quatremère de Quincy’s masterful explanation in the Dictionnaire d’architecture (1825) that formally introduced the notion into the architectural discourse. For Quatremère: ‘The word type presents less the image of a thing to copy or imitate completely than the idea of an element which ought itself to serve as a rule for the model.’4 Type consequently is an element, an object, a thing that embodies the idea. Type 17


Deena Fakhro, The Holy City and its Discontent, Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby), Architectural Association, London, 2008 above and centre: Typical plans, sections and views of airport. Once a year, every year, the Holy City of Makkah is flooded by a surge of three million pilgrims, demanding unparalleled infrastructural miracles. To counter the financial burden of the redundant hajj infrastructure, the gateway airports are opportunistically combined with mosque-based Islamic universities: airportmosques, switching between pilgrim surges and student populations.

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top and opposite: An airport, a mosque: a city gateway. In response to the pilgrim surge in Makkah, the project strategically proposes polynodal gateway airports that disperse congestion multidirectionally within Makkah’s valleys.


is abstract and conceptual rather than concrete and literal. Its idea guides or governs over the rules of the model. This idea, following a Neoplatonic and metaphysical tradition, is by Quatremère understood as the ideal that an architect should strive for but which never fully materialises in the process of creative production. The idea of the ‘model’, on the other hand, is developed by Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand in his typological design method of the Précis des leçons d’architecture données à l’École royale polytechnique (1802–05). In the Précis, developed almost at the same time as Quatremère’s typological theory at the turn of the 19th century, Durand attempts to establish a systematic method of classifying buildings according to genres and abstracts them into diagrams.5 He proposes that new types emerge in response to the requirements of a changing society and urban conditions, whereby the typological diagrams are adapted to the constraints of specific sites. This notion of type as model, graphically reducible to diagrams, introduced precepts that are fundamental to working typologically: precedents, classification, taxonomy, repetition, differentiation and reinvention. Thus Durand’s Précis outlines an important element of the didactic theory of type and constitutes what we understand by typology. The misunderstanding of type and typology, attacked by many for its perceived restrictions, has resulted in the deliberate rejection of typological knowledge. This is evident in the exotic formal experiments of the past 15 years: every fold, every twist and bend, every swoosh and whoosh is justified as being superior to the types it displaces. However, it remains unclear what these ill properties or characteristics of type are that the novel forms want to replace and to what ends. These architectural experiments have no relevance beyond the formal and cannot be considered an invention, for invention, as Quatremère stated, ‘does not exist outside rules; for there would be no way to judge invention’.6 In ‘Type? What Type?’ (pages 56–65), Michael Hensel recounts his personal experiences in the early 1990s at the Architectural Association (AA) in London – according to

him an important juncture for the theory and experiments of architecture in urbanism – which he argues failed to recognise the need for a wider contextualisation of experimentation, due to the casual if not naive treatment of the type. Marina Lathouri in ‘The City as a Project: Types, Typical Objects and Typologies’ (pages 24–31) provides a critical and historiographical discussion of type’s role in defining the architectural object and its relationship to the city. This thematic engagement is complemented by the projects of UNStudio in ‘Typological Instruments: Connecting Architecture and Urbanism’ by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos (pages 66–77). These projects clarify the utilisation of design models to synthesise types with the complexities of practice and reality through the instrumentality of typological and serial models of organisation. The specific responses demonstrate that typological design models are capable of, and require, their transformation and hybridisation in order to fulfil the ambitions and requirements of an architectural project in an urban context. Typology and the Urban Plan The coupling of the concept of type as idea and model allows us to discuss its instrumentality in the urban context. The word ‘urbanism’ means ‘of, living or situated in, a city or town’, but it was Ildefons Cerdá – a Catalan engineer and the urban planner of the Barcelona Eixample – who first invented the words ‘urbanism’ and ‘urbanisation’ in his Theory of Urbanization (1867). For Cerdá, urbanism was the science that manages and regulates the growth of the city through housing and economic activities. He understood the word ‘urbs’ at the root of ‘urbanisation’ and, in opposition to the notion of the city, proposed that its focus was not the (historical and symbolic) city centre but the suburbs.7 Thus the process of urbanisation inevitably involves multiple stakeholders, a diversity of inhabitants, and a scale beyond that of a single building incorporated in an urban plan. This inclusive urban plan has to be differentiated from the masterplan predicated on singular authority and control. 19


The instrumentality of type in the process of envisioning, regulating and administering the urban plan lies in its ability to act as a pliable diagram, indexing the irreducible typal imprints that serve as the elemental parts to the plan.8 The diagrams of type, however, are not mere graphic representations of the urban plan, but embody the basic organisational performance, history and meaning of precedent types that are then developed into new design solutions. The function of the diagram hereby is both diagnostic and projective, and at the same time refers to the irreducible structure of the types in question.9 In ‘Type, Field, Culture, Praxis’ (pages 38–45) Peter Carl clarifies that ‘types are isolated fragments of a deeper and richer structure of typicalities’, attempting to relate the architectural object to human situations. Typicalities, says Carl, are ‘those aspects common to all’, exerting a claim on freedom, while this freedom depends in turn on that which is common to all for its meaning. A number of further projects by OMA, Toyo Ito, SANAA and l’AUC provide a second reading of how a recourse to typology is necessary when dealing with the urban context. In the Penang Tropical City (2004) by OMA (pages 78–89), distinct building types are grouped together to form ‘islands of exacerbated difference’ as yet another enactment of Koolhaas’ idea of the ‘Cities within the City’ developed with OM Ungers in 1977.10 Toyo Ito’s project for the Singapore Buona Vista Masterplan (2001 – see pages 90–3) develops the use of prototypical elements – albeit in a more ‘fluid’ manner – that bears traces to his preoccupations with the problems of collective form that typified the Metabolist movement of the 1960s in Japan. In Ito’s proposal, the city is envisioned as aggregating into a continuous whole, fusing infrastructure, building, open spaces and services into an integrated piece of architecture. l’AUC pursues a re-representation and projection of the metropolitan conditions through typological intensifications of a super-metropolitan matrix in the Grand Paris Stimulé (2008–09 – pages 108–9), which attempts a different approach to city-making. Perhaps the most unusual 20

inclusion is the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (2004) in Kanazawa, Japan, by SANAA (pages 94–101). This project should be understood in relation to other projects such as the Moriyama House in Tokyo (2005) and the recently completed Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne (2010), which rethink the building as a piece of city fabric through the mat-building typology. Type and the City If urbanisation is concerned with the expansion of human settlement driven primarily by economics, the city on the other hand is the consolidated, concentrated settlement that precedes the urb. It is usually demarcated by a city wall and a point of concentration for people and activities, resulting in a stratified society that is functionally differentiated and politically divided.11 This city is a historical product and centred on the civic and symbolic functions of human settlement and coexistence. As cities owe their main characteristic to geographical and topographical conditions, and are always linked to other cities by trade and resources, they tend to specialise and form a distinct character.12 It is this distinct character coupled with the need to accommodate differences that gives rise to the possibility of a collective meaning for the city. This meaning changes over time in response to its evolving inhabitants and external circumstances, but its history is often formalised in the construction of civic buildings and landmarks that express a common identity. These ‘elements of permanence’ in the city are exemplified by town halls, libraries, museums and archives. It is through this understanding that we are proposing that the idea of the city can be embodied in these dominant types, communicating the idea of the city in response to specific historical and sociocultural conditions. From Barcelona with its Cerdá housing blocks, London with its Victorian and Georgian terraces and New York with its Manhattan skyscrapers, cities can be understood, described, conceptualised and theorised through their own particular dominant types. Through Rossi, we learn that a building as


Max von Werz, Open Source Fabric, Zorrozaurre, Bilbao, Spain, Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby), Architectural Association, London, 2007 opposite left: Urban plan. The differentiation of urban blocks and their collective voids is utilised to absorb the shifts in the knowledge industry that is to occupy the peninsula of Zorrozaurre. The stringing together of the exterior void offers the possibility of coexistence between the models of knowledge environments: the suburban-like technopark and the city-like technopole.

opposite right: Urban plan fragment. Resisting the tendency for singular types, the project introduces the heterogeneity of diverse type-specific environments capable of consolidating leisure networks to attract a lived-in population within the peninsula.

Martin Jameson, Project Runway, Thames Estuary, UK, Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby), Architectural Association, London, 2008 top: Airport visualisation. Heathrow Airport is top of the long list of London’s planning disasters. The solution: a 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) inhabited bridge across the mouth of the Thames Estuary.

above: Fragment model of airport. Incorporating high-speed rail and topped with three runways, this new urban condition manifests a compressed and highly varied programme tightly contained within a strict envelope. The impact: regeneration without sprawl, infrastructure without damage to civic life.

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Typological Urbanism, in conclusion, brings together arguments and projects that demonstrate a commitment to the empowerment of the architect to once again utilise his or her disciplinary knowledge.

Yi Cheng Pan, Resisting the Generic Empire, Singapore, Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher CM Lee and Sam Jacoby), Architectural Association, London, 2006 top: Masterplan model. To wrest control of the ground plane from the proliferating skyscrapers, the project inverts its massing through the cultivation of multiple urban plans within the skyscraper type. This strategy releases the ground plane for immediate activation by smaller building types (and stakeholders) and creates multiple ‘clustered’ volumes for increased public and private partnerships.

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above: Urban plan. The project explores the issues of control and difference, and challenges Singapore’s addiction to the ubiquitous high-rise type. It resists the formation of the state-engineered Generic Empire – a city entirely subjugated to the whims of large corporations – by providing a typological framework that cultivates difference through the coexistence of multiple types.

Yifan Liu, The Great Flight Forward, Chengdu, China, Diploma Unit 6 (tutors: Christopher Lee and Sam Jacoby), Architectural Association, London, 2008 opposite: Masterplan model of airport. The People’s Square has become the airport. Its void becomes the runway, its edge the terminals and aerotropolis. By enforcing the edge and limiting its growth, new intimate scales of public spaces derived from the traditional Chinese courtyard-house typology are released and become prominent.


an element of ‘permanence’ is able to act as the typological repository of a city’s history, construction and form. For Rossi, type is independent of function and therefore pliable. To understand these types is to understand the city itself. Pier Vittorio Aureli in ‘City as Political Form: Four Archetypes of Urban Transformation’ (pages 32–7) discusses the instrumentality of paradigmatic architectural archetype as an extensive governance apparatus and proposes that while the evolution of the city can be thought of as the evolution of urban types, its realisation can only happen within a political ‘state of exception’. Similarly, Martino Tattara in ‘Brasilia’s Superquadra: Prototypical Design and the Project of the City’ (pages 46–55) proposes that the ‘prototype’ is the exemplar that does not reproduce itself through a set of norms, prescriptions or rules, but through the authoritativeness of the prototype itself. This ultimately constitutes a new disciplinary operativity by considering the prototype as a ‘seed’ for the idea of the city. Two projects by DOGMA and Serie offer a possible demonstration of the manifestation of the idea of the city as an architectural project. DOGMA, in their ‘A Simple Heart: Architecture on the Ruins of a Post-Fordist City’ (pages 110–19) investigate the possibility by focusing on the relationship between architectural form, large-scale design and political economy. This is rendered less as a ‘working’ proposition and more as an idea of the city brought to its (extreme) logical conclusions. In the Xi’an Horticultural Masterplan project by Serie Architects (pages 120–7), the transformation of an artefact of the city is used to confront the problem of centrality and the possible recuperation of the tradition of city-making in Xi’an, China. The city wall as a dominant type is utilised as the deep structure that sets out a typological grammar for the city. Typological Urbanism, in conclusion, brings together arguments and projects that demonstrate a commitment to the empowerment of the architect to once again utilise his or her disciplinary knowledge. It is a re-engagement with architecture’s exteriority and architectural experimentation

governed by reason and (re)inventions underpinned by typological reasoning. It is an insistence on architecture that not only answers the didactic question of ‘how to?’ but also the meta-critical question of ‘why do?’. 1 Notes 1. The United Nations expects that the population increase of 2.3 billion by 2050 will result in the growth of urbanisation levels in more developed regions from currently 75 per cent to 86 per cent, and from 45 per cent to 66 per cent in less developed regions, achieving an average of 69 per cent. Most of the population growth will take place in urban areas in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. See United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision, New York, 2010. 2. In part, this tendency to classify group buildings according to use can be attributed to Nikolaus Pevsner’s Buildings of England (1951–75). The original series by Pevsner, for Penguin, has been expanded and is now published by Yale University Press as Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England,Scotland, Wales and Ireland. 3. Compare with Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City, trans Diane Ghirardo and Joan Ockman, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1982. 4. Quatremère de Quincy, ‘Type’, in Encyclopédie Méthodique, Vol 3, 1825, trans Samir Younés, Quatremere De Quincy’s Historical Dictionary of Architecture: The True, the Fictive and the Real, Papadakis Publisher (London), 2000. 5. Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, Précis of the Lectures on Architecture, trans David Britt, Getty Trust Publications (Los Angeles), 2000. Durand’s diagrams primarily capture the structural elements of various building types, comprising a layer of grids that denote both structure and geometric composition. 6. Quatremère de Quincy, ‘Rule’, in Encyclopédie Méthodique, Vol 3, op cit. 7. The difference between ‘urb’ and ‘city’ and its implication are developed by Pier Vittorio Aureli in ‘Toward the Archipelago’, in Log 11, 2008. 8. For a more detailed account, see Christopher Lee and Sam Jacoby (eds), Typological Formations: Renewable Building Types and the City, AA Publications (London), 2007. 9. This understanding of the diagram is fundamentally different from interpreting diagrams of flows and pseudoscientific indexes as novel tectonics. 10. Oswald Matthias Ungers, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Riemann, Hans Kollhoff and Peter Ovaska, ‘Cities Within the City: Proposal by the Sommerakademie Berlin’, in Lotus International 19, 1977. 11. For a more elaborate description of the evolution of cities and its definition, see Spiro Kostof, City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History, Thames & Hudson (London), 1999. 12. Traditional cities are defined by their relationships to river banks, sea ports, railways, highlands (hill towns) and so on. Today we see cities that position themselves as knowledge cities, financial cities, medical cities, sport cities and so on. Text © 2011 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © Diploma Unit 6, Architectural Association School of Architecture, London

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Typological Urbanism  

The issue of Architectural Design (AD) on Typological Urbanism pursues and develops the strategies of typological reasoning in order to re-e...

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